Not Sure If My Tank Is Cycling Help

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by fishq, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. fishq

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Hello, I need some advice on my 10 gallon tank. Short history: I lost 4 Glofish tetras on 7/1/19. After posting on this forum for help I realized the most likely cause was that I did not have a properly cycled tank even thought I had thought the tank was cycled. One Blue Glofish tetra survived. He has been doing well since then!! Yay!

    Now for the particulars: The temperature in my tank is consistent at 78 degrees. I have been dosing with Prime daily to keep the Ammonia and Nitrites from harming my little guy (20 drops daily) since I am now doing a Fish-in Cycle. I also picked up Stability, followed their directions and did first dose 1 capful on 7/5/19. Dosed daily after that with 1/2 capful - Last dose was on 7/12/19 (did Stability for 8 days). Along the way I have also purchased a Seachem Ammonia Alert meter and Seachem PH Alert meter. In addition to keeping an eye on these, I test daily with the API master test kit. The reason I purchased the Seachem Ammonia Alert is because I read online on the Seachem forum that the API Master Test Kit does not detect Ammonia levels if using Prime daily/every other day. It said that the Seachem Ammonia Alert would read the total ammonia in the tank including the ammonia that is toxic to fish.

    So far, I have not seen Ammonia go up at all. It is still at 0.02ppm on the Ammonia Alert meter and has not changed. I get an Ammonia reading of 0.25ppm daily from the API test kit which has not changed. Nitrites are 0ppm and Nitrates 0ppm which have not changed. I have NO IDEA if my tank is cycling at all. I thought the Stability would aid in this process or make the process a little quicker ?? With one fish shouldn't I see some ammonia levels by now even if I did not use the Stability?

    The other thing, and the main reason for this post, is that my PH has been dropping. It started out being consistent with a reading at 7.4 on both the PH Alert and the API test kit every day. It started dropping slowly beginning on 7/13/19 with a reading of 7.0 every day until 7/19 it changed to 6.8. It is still at 6.8. Since the API Master test kit does not test for KH and GH, I used my Tetra Easy Strips today to test for these. GH is 150-300 (hard to tell but looked more like 300) and KH was 0. The PH actually read 6.8 on the test strip which shocked me b/c I have read so much about the strips not being accurate!! I have not done any water changes since I read somewhere that doing a water change during the cycling process is a no no since I would be getting rid of beneficial bacteria. However, at this point I do not know if I even have any beneficial bacteria!

    I have added a little water to my tank (dechlorinated first with Prime) over the past few weeks but overall I have only added about 3/4 of a gallon in total. This was to replace water I have been removing from the tank for testing over the past few weeks.

    Is there something I'm doing wrong with regards to the cycling process? I'm puzzled as to why I am not getting an Ammonia reading and why my PH is dropping. I'm concerned that if it drops too low, I will lose my little blue tetra who looks happy and content so far. Should I try adding Tetra Safe Start to see if it begins to cycle? I just don't want to lose my little fish. He is a trooper! IMG_6673.jpg
  2. SaltyPhone

    SaltyPhoneWell Known MemberMember

    Pro tip I learned in this forum is that: the reagents in bottle #2 Nirtatre of the master test kit can crystallize giving false readings. Ime the tetra brand test strips are pretty good comparing with api liquid kit. Live plants can do wonders even a moss ball which is algae. Algae is a good thing in a newly established tank so resist the urge to clean it all up. Reduce feeding to a small amount every 3-4 days and wc after. Beneficial bacteria does not live in the water column itself so don’t hesitate to water change; gravel vac a small section each time you water change.
  3. Zka17

    Zka17Valued MemberMember

    I agree, you need to shake the Bottle #2 very very well! GH won't do too much for your pH, but low KH (in this case 0) will cause the pH to drop - organic acid accumulation.

    I would do a nitrate test, this time making sure of the necessary shakings, then I would change some water - maybe 25%...
  4. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Thank you! I have read that too so I have been following all the directions and shaking the bottles more than is required. I do not believe that I have a problem with getting a false reading in this case. As for the test strips, I did test yesterday with them and everything came out the same compared to the readings I was getting with the API tests. I have two live plants in my tank. I haven't cleaned the tank at all, not even a gravel vac yet since I've read to avoid doing those things during a newly established cycle. I guess I can do the water change though to bring up the PH.
  5. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    When cycling with fish water changes are necessary. With just one little fish in there you aren't going to get any big spikes so not seeing a rise in the levels isn't something you need to be concerned about.

    If you have any live plants in this tank the plant(s) could be making use of the tiny amount of ammonia your one fish is producing.

    If I were you I would be doing no less than a 50% water change once a week. Water gets stale and needs to be freshened up with water changes.

    Since you already have one fish in there you may want to consider adding at least one more. If you see the ammonia rising to one or above do water changes to get and keep it below one. Prime will detox amounts below one so will protect your fish from its damaging affects.

    If you still don't see an ammonia reading after a week or so add one more fish. The 3 of them should produce enough ammonia to get this tank cycled. Just keep on top of the water changes an add prime to detox the tiny bit left after the water change.

    Right now the most important thing to do is a 50% or more water change to freshen up the water. Water changes should also stabilize your PH.
  6. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Thank you mattgirl! I didn't realize that water changes weekly were a necessary part of Fish-in cycling. I just ordered a KH GH Test kit that will arrive tomorrow so that I can properly keep an eye on these levels as I have been reading that KH directly affects PH. I'm just concerned because the Tetra Easy Strip read 0 yesterday and I know that can be harmful to my fish and really lower the PH drastically! I will do a water change.

    The ammonia readings still being at or near 0 over the past few weeks has really been frustrating though as I can't yet tell if the cycle has even started. I had been toying with the idea of getting one more fish to see if that would increase the ammonia being produced but decided against that since I'm a newbie and do not want to kill another fish. I might go ahead and do it if you think that could help my cycle.

    Do you think the Stability I added has helped my tank begin the cycle at all? Is the dropping KH and PH part of the cycling process in some way?
  7. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Quite often the PH will gradually go down during the cycling process if no water changes are being done. Over time all the minerals present in most tap water and necessary for both our health and the health of our fish are depleted over time and need to be replenished with fresh clean water.

    If there is little to no ammonia in the tank the bacteria in the Stability may have died off so it may not have done any good for this tank.

    For a bit of peace of mind while doing a fish in cycle you may want to take a few minutes to read This thread. It explains how to cycle with fish. As long as you have both the time and willingness to do lots of water changes your fish should come through the cycling process just fine.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  8. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Once again mattgirl, terrific input! I did read the thread you sent also. So awesome you wrote this and it is a big help! Any idea as to why the Seachem Ammonia alert meter that is in my tank is not showing total Ammonia increases even though the Prime may be helping to keep any toxic ammonia at bay? I see from your thread that if I do the water changes, I may never see it spike and that makes total sense, but why wouldn't I see it if I have done zero water changes? In addition to the water change, should I also gravel vac as well?
  9. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Do you have any kind of live plant in there? I have a 2.5 gallon snail jar for breeding ramshorn snails. It doesn't have a filter but I do run an airstone in it. I have pothos growing out of the top of it. I never get an ammonia reading in this jar. The plant eats all of it. Without the plant I am sure the ammonia levels would be through the roof since I feed them very well.

    If you have any kind of algae in this tank it could be eating the very small amount of ammonia your one little guy is producing.

    It wouldn't hurt to lightly vacuum the gravel. You don't want to get too aggressive with it for now. Once we get you cycled you can start deep cleaning it then.

    How is your filter media looking? Are you using the filter cartridges that claim to need to be changed each month? If so don't change them. Just rinse them in some of the water you have removed from the tank after a water change. Don't change the cartridge until it is literally falling apart or water no longer flows through it freely.
  10. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Yes, I have two live plants (one large and one small) and no algae. I have the Tetra Whisper PF10 power filter that came with my tank since it was a kit. It uses Tetra bio bag disposable filter cartridges. I attached a photo. I have not changed anything in the filter yet. I can check the filter media. What should I be looking for?

    Attached Files:

  11. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    I have a feeling the plants are what is keeping your ammonia levels so low. Good for the fish but it means very little food left to feed and grow bacteria. One or even two more fish should produce enough ammonia to get this tanks cycle going.

    Just look at the biobag. If it looks like it has a buildup of waste on it gently clean it off in either fresh de chlorinated water or water from your tank.
  12. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    I just checked and the biobag looks pristine. I guess I'll be purchasing new fish then and see what happens! Also, I just re-tested my source water for PH and Nitrates. The PH is 6.8-7.0 (hard to tell exactly but somewhere in there). If I am to change my water and I do a 50% change, would that then change the PH too quickly for my little guy? I don't want to shock him. The source water Nitrates is at 5.0ppm. When I test my tank water, Nitrates are always at 0. Could the plants or the prime be affecting the Nitrate reading?
  13. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    Since you will just be changing 50% of the water the small difference between tank and tap shouldn't be enough to hurt your little guy.

    I don't think the prime will be affecting your nitrate reading but the plants could be using up that small amount.
  14. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    Thank you mattgirl! I will be changing about 50% of the tank water today. I received my GH and KH API test kit today so did not want to change the water until I tested it first. KH turned yellow after only 1 drop which means extremely low (0-50ppm)! I verified this with an API rep. My GH is at 179ppm. I'm assuming a 50% water change would change these values??
  15. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    It might change them a bit but you probably want to run the same tests on both tank and tap to determine the difference between the two. If there is a big difference divide the number in half and that number will tell you how much a 50% water change will drop or raise the numbers in the tank.
  16. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    OP I just wanted to say you did a great job mastering and executing all this stuff and your fish and tank look ADORABLE. He looks like an advertisement up there! :emoji_hearts:

    Lol now I want a glow tank!

    I agree with everything mattgirl said - he's just not generating any dramatic levels of ammonia and yay for plants.

    Also, Cory from Aquarium Co-op (a pretty famous fish guy) has a video on Tetra test strips. He says they are JUST as accurate as API Master Test kit and API is the company with notoriously wrong strips.

    So...I ordered some and I agree with him.

    I'm sort of in the position with you only having one little fish in a 20g and one in a 10g and they are doing a fine job now of creating enough of everything finally. But having 2 more will work better for you, agreed. One one week then the second one next week. I was lucky I had media to use for the cycling.

    my tap is PH 8.2 and my tank is 6.6 from the substrate so yeah, it's a pita and I have to use bottled water + tap so the water "matches" the tank. Took alot of testing to find the two brands with the right PH that works in the recipe.

    If you need 6.8 ish water - neutral, Crystal Geyser available at Walmart is that. NOT Crystal SPRINGS which is 6.0!

    Also a couple of the smaller size bottles like Evian and Volvic (sp) are 7.0. I'm in FL so it depends where you are. Also test it first to be sure. And match the temps with his tank. Using tap to temper it.

    I merge all my waters in a white 2.5 gal bucket from Petsmart which has the half gallon markings inside the bucket as I create my mixture. Once I get the right PH/TEMP I Prime and put it in the tank. I add it pretty slowly and keep an eye on their thermometers. I also bought an Infra Red Temperature gun on Amazon that is awesome. You can get an instant read on anything including steaks!

    I would dose the Stability with the 50% WC, too. Explanation is on the bottle.

    EDIT: I also threw in the plant wool media in my tanks for extra BB when I added plants packed in a cup but not recommending you do that since you're in a tenuous state right now.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  17. OP

    fishqNew MemberMember

    I did my 50% water change around 5pm EST. Before the water change, the parameters were:
    KH 0ppm
    GH 179ppm
    PH 6.8
    Ammonia 0ppm to 0.25ppm (hard to tell the exact color)
    Nitrites 0ppm
    Nitrates 0ppm

    I just retested the water and these are the new parameters:
    KH 54ppm
    GH 179ppm
    PH 7.2 (should I be worried about this change?)
    Ammonia - I did not test
    Nitrites 0ppm
    Nitrates 5.0ppm (my source water contains Nitrates at this amount)

    The one mistake I made was in trying to match the 78-79 degree temp in my tank, I added some warm water and it brought temp to 82 for a short while. It is now back down to 80. I treated my tap water with Prime and then also added 20 drops of Prime to the tank afterward.

    Do any of these changes in parameters give cause for concern for my little fish?

    Hi CindyVBPets! Thank you so much for your compliments on my tank! I have really enjoyed having my little guy and decorating the tank. I even have some decorations in reserve for when I may want to change it at a later date :) The info on the Tetra test strips is very interesting. Do you have a link to the video? I would be interested in seeing it. I really couldn't believe how close the two tests were after reading so much to the contrary. It's encouraging to know you too have one fish in each of your tanks and that you cycled successfully! I plan to get one fish within the next week to add to my tank and then one more after to get the ammonia levels going. I am just hoping my blue tetra makes it through this water change ok. Also, thanks a TON for the tips on the water with regards to PH. As you can see from my previous post, PH just shifted.

    If you get a chance, can you send me the link to the Red Temp gun on Amazon? I also had a problem with making the water too warm when I added it to the tank during the water change. Ugh.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2019
  18. mattgirl

    mattgirlFishlore VIPMember

    The kh of zero before the water change tells us why your PH was dropping. This is another reason for doing water changes even if all other numbers look good.

    It is best to use a thermometer when trying to temp match the water but a difference of a few degrees shouldn't be a big problem. I used to use a thermometer but now I just stick my hand in the water and can usually get it pretty close.

    If your PH drops again you may want to do smaller water changes to keep it from changing quite as much as it did this time with the 50%. If you do them each week though it should keep your KH up and if so your PH should stabilize.
  19. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember

    Sure !

    The Infra Red Temperature Gun:

    It looks complicated but for my purposes all I had to do was set it to Fahrenheit and point.

    It has a wide scope so you want to keep it close to the item you're checking. For example if you try and catch the temp of a bottle of water when it's in front of a window and you're too far away, you catch the temp of the OUTSIDE lol.

    Also if it's in a very hot room, say, the kitchen...and you want to check another room that's colder, the ambient air will affect the gun so you have to give it a minute to acclimate.

    Also, a way I do my changes is to add some TANK WATER to my new water to temper tempering eggs! Then I S L O W L Y add the new water to the tank all around the perimeter, through the filter etc.

    When I remove my hoods, unplug everything...I find my tank temp might drop by a couple degrees pretty fast. Make sure you don't have a ceiling fan running and I shut off my AC for that time, too.

    If you're interested, I use this Surge Protector with individual outlet controls so all you have to do is click the button to shut off the electronics that are plugged in instead of messing around pulling stuff out of the if you want to reach in the tank without being electrocuted by the heater haha.

    Cory, Aquarium Co-op (has has a zillion great videos including one on Cycling With Plants [only] that's very informative on the cycle)

    Cycling The Planted Aquarium:

    API Master Test Kit Vs Tetra 6 in 1 Test Strips Shoot Out!

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
  20. CindyVBPets

    CindyVBPetsValued MemberMember